Young Folks' History of England HTML version

31. Elizabeth's Reign, A.D. 1587—1602
No reign ever was more glorious or better for the people than Queen
Elizabeth's. It was a time when there were many very great men living —
soldiers, sailors, writers, poets—and they all loved and look up to the queen
as the mother of her country. There really was nothing she did love like the
good of her people, and somehow they all felt and knew it, and "Good Queen
Bess" had their hearts—though she was not always right, and had some
serious faults.
The worst of her faults was not telling the truth. Somehow kings and rulers
had, at that time, learnt to believe that when they were dealing with other
countries anything was fair, and that it was not wrong to tell falsehoods to
hide a secret, nor to make promises they never meant to keep. People used
to do so who would never have told a lie on their own account to their
neighbor, and Lord Burleigh and Queen Elizabeth did so very often, and often
behaved meanly and shabbily to people who had trusted to their promises.
Her other fault was vanity. She was a little woman, with bright eyes, and
rather hooked nose, and sandy hair, but she managed to look every inch a
queen, and her eye, when displeased, was like a lion's. She had really been in
love with Lord Leicester, and every now and then he hoped she would marry
him; indeed, there is reason to fear that he had his wife secretly killed, in
order that he might be able to wed the queen; but she saw that the people
would not allow her to do so, and gave it up. But she liked to be courted. She
allowed foreign princes to send her their portraits, rings, and jewels, and
sometimes to come and see her, but she never made up her mind to take
them. And as to the gentlemen at her own court, she liked them to make the
most absurd and ridiculous compliments to her, calling her their sun and
goddess, and her hair golden beams of the morning, and the like; and the
older she grew the more of these fine speeches she required of them. Her
dress—a huge hoop, a tall ruff all over lace, and jewels in the utmost
profusion— was as splendid as it could be made, and in wonderful variety.
She is said to have had three hundred gowns and thirty wigs. Lord Burleigh
said of her that she was sometimes more than a man, and sometimes less
than a woman. And so she was, when she did not like her ladies to wear
handsome dresses.
One of the people who had wanted to marry her was her brother-in-law,
Philip of Spain, but she was far too wise, and he and she were bitter enemies
all the rest of their lives. His subjects in Holland had become Protestants, and
he persecuted them so harshly that they broke away from him. They wanted
Elizabeth to be their queen, but she would not, though she sent Lord
Leicester to help them with an army. With him went his nephew, Sir Philip
Sydney, the most good, and learned, and graceful gentleman at court. There
was great grief when Sir Philip was struck by a cannon ball in the thigh, and
died after nine days pain. It was as he was being carried from the field, faint